And all that we could do with this emotion

The uncertainty of this pandemic is crippling, but the realization of so many things - about ourselves, our work, our friendships, our identities, our government - is just as paralyzing. 

Expect me, then, to dive even deeper into what is already very familiar, if only because my brain is wired to seek comfort when all external factors are different, and frightening, and unstable. (Okay, yes, this concerns my current listening habits.)

(Photo credit: Carly Rae Jepsen's Instagram)

To no one's surprise, I slid down the Carly Rae rabbit hole again today. Unlike most people I know, Carly isn't my go-to background pop music (that recognition goes to Ariana). Rather, I find myself diving into her music sporadically, albeit intensely and deeply each time. Sometimes I can go weeks without playing her music on Spotify, but when I do, expect that entire day and the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours to be non-stop CRJ.

In many ways, like a devotee paying homage to its goddess. I busy myself with other things, but when my soul needs replenishing, I come crawling back.

It occurred to me today that I never got to write about the Manila concert last October 23. And I know exactly why: it was so good. So, so good. There was this overwhelming fear of not being able to encapsulate the entire experience; that somehow writing about it dilutes every bit of magic I felt while dancing along with a thousand other entranced bodies.

But this particular Monday, as I dealt with spotty Internet and limited downloaded music on my phone, I couldn't help but relive that entire night. As I pressed "play" on the Carly Rae Manila Setlist, I remembered what it meant to be on the precipice of what it means to truly, fearlessly, and willingly let go. To be in the moment and revel in it

Three nights away from turning twenty-eight, I went into that concert filled with excitement, but also, a lot of uncertainty. I was turning yet another year old, but, in the accounting of moral equations I made in my head, what have I to show for it? No new pursuits, no new hobbies; dreams still significantly a thousand miles away. Nothing that would make a tiny chorus of damned souls from The Bad Place scream, "Darn it!"

All I had at twenty-seven - much like at seventeen - were lots and lots and lots of feelings.

Feelings of inadequacy, of uncertainty, of misguided passions; of righteous anger at the world for its unkindness, of indignant anger at myself for my apathy; of the many shades of sadness that I carry with me as I trudge on through. But also, insane amounts of excitement over the littlest things, like finding old songs to sing along to while driving, or a fresh cup of coffee to start off the week, or a few bottles of beer to cap off a busy day. Feelings of gratefulness, and contentment, over the ease of certain detours and the net effect of all that life has to bring falling on the good side.

I was never one to shy away from expressing my feelings, whether grief or joy, but I always make the conscious effort to hold them in. To process them first. But something about Carly Rae's music defies restraint. Rolling Stone rightfully called her the Queen of Hearts, and it perfectly identifies what it is about her songs that speak to millions of flawed, complex, lost souls:

"I try to create that with the music that I make - a feeling of a moment being so intense that you’re present in it and you’re nowhere else."

It is in encapsulating the simplest of feelings into electrically charged pop hooks that her magic lies. Everyone finds a space in her music; "There I am, and there it is, that's exactly how I feel," we hear ourselves say. She sings the words, and it finds us, knows us, so much so that it would be impossible to not acknowledge how much it sees us.

In "Run Away With Me," for instance, she revels in the privacy of her feelings: “Baby, take me to the feeling / I’ll be your sinner in secret / When the lights go out.” She’s letting you in on a secret, a feeling so big she can’t contain it. In "Julien," she directly acknowledges the reason behind her gloom: "Woke up this mornin', it feels like everyday / I got the blues, babe, not going away / Another bad dream when you were running away / I'm forever haunted by our time." In identifying the reasons behind her feelings, instead of being overwhelmed, she holds power over them.

Her set list was a rollercoaster ride of highs, and even higher highs. She steals a bike and rides all night in "Fever." She heeds her friend's advice in "Boy Problems." She tosses and turns and can't fall asleep in "Gimmie Love." She goes out and never comes back in "Store." She touches herself in "Party for One." She wants to do bad things (to you) in "Want You In My Room." She knows that there is nothing like the feeling of being in love in "Now That I Found You." She cuts through the clouds and breaks through the ceiling in "Cut to the Feeling." She attempts to comfort oneself while openly longing for both the chaos and certainty of love in "Real Love."

She feels it all and she lets us feel it all too.

The axis around which her songs revolve is the vulnerability that comes with longing. So much about life requires things to be in black-and-white: yes or no? Here or there? Stay or go? But Carly exists in the space in between. She acknowledges the small moments before that "yes," the hesitation before that jump, the wanting before the satisfaction. And she legitimizes this space: to feel these things is just as legitimate as our biggest fears and desires.

In one of her songs, she asks:

"Is this too, is this too, is this too much?"

And like devotees witnessing an apparition, we waved our hands in the air in reckless abandon to affirm what our hearts have always known: no, in the midst of music and love and euphoria, nothing is ever too much.


P.S. The truth was, another highlight of the concert was knowing that you are surrounded with like-minded fans, also knowing every word, also feeling every beat. I saw literally almost a hundred friends that day - and the number of selfies I took is proof of that - from the lines, to the lobby, to the seats. It was, as my blockmates accurately put it, the grand UP Law alumni homecoming. It was such a delight seeing all of them, in all their unabashed fangirl/fanboy glory! Friends working in firms, in the government, in private corporations, studying for the bar, waiting for bar results - name it. Not even our own school could bring us all together for one event; but trust in the power of Carly Rae to convene all the millennial Iskos and Ateneans in one venue.

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